Subject: Canal Information Centre in Camden Town

Dear Friends,

I can now confirm that Starbucks have submitted a revised planning application that affects the Canal Information Centre (CIC) at Hampstead Road Locks. This follows my e-mail of 12th November (see link below), regarding a planning enforcement and appeal.

The revised application is a significant improvement compared with the original one that was submitted 8 months ago. It is unlikely to satisfy campaigners who want a stand-alone information centre, but for those of you who are prepared to accept a compromise it contains most, if not all, of the features required to accommodate dual use. The compromise is an arrangement whereby the canal information centre and the coffee house will co-exist in the same internal space, and the building maintenance (including wall displays) will be funded by the coffee house. The overall layout will be similar to the current configuration, but there will be better signage, less clutter, more canal-related information on the walls, tighter controls on background music and clear indications that the two operations have equal status within the building.

The new proposals and commitments have been under discussion since April, but this is the first time that they have been published by Starbucks or their agents. You will find details on the council website in the Planning Statement and in the new Management Plan. Some of the changes in the Planning Statement are subtle but significant, and they reflect the constructive criticism that we have provided since the original application was submitted. The emphasis in the plans has changed from a dominant coffee house (with ancillary CIC) to a shared use CIC and coffee house. This positive change is evident in the application title and throughout the document.

I have weighed up the verbal and written feedback I have received from everybody in recent months and I have decided to support the revised proposals in the name of Friends of Regentís Canal. This does not mean that I have read and agreed with every detail in the documents; it means that I think the proposals are sufficiently positive that I want to focus on minor areas of improvement, and with help from other canal supporters I hope to draw up a snag list that will address most of your concerns.

To date, I have reviewed the proposed layout from the perspective of individual visitors to the CIC, to gauge whether they would be able to move around freely and get access to the canal information without facing delays or obstacles. I feel that the quality of the information will be the highest priority, because if this is well researched and presented then the CIC can remain unmanned; this will free up the canal volunteers to support the CIC at our own convenience, by monitoring and re-stocking leaflet racks and other changeable information. The existing arrangement is unsatisfactory for visitors, as the information is weak and the store is unwelcoming to casual visitors, but I feel that the proposed changes will help to rectify these problems.

However, I have not yet reviewed how the CIC might serve community groups. The plans include a designated community table, to allow canal groups to hold pre-arranged meetings, but we have yet to identify the groups that are likely to make use of this facility, how frequently they will meet or how they might want to use the rest of the CIC. Please come forward if you want to comment on these requirements, because you might be able to influence the contents of the new Management Plan.

The deadline for comments is 21st December. You are welcome to send comments directly to the council or else you can send questions and comments to me. I have created a web page (see link below) to explain the context of this application and I will be expanding that page over the next few days.

Here is a link to the new web page

and here is a link to my previous e-mail babout this subject

Best wishes,

Ian Shacklock
Chair, Friends of Regent's Canal

4th December 2012

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